Foster named Durham County board chairman

Commissioners hope to move past divisions

CorrespondentDecember 4, 2012 

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FOSTER.MD.020700.JRR -- DURHAM, NC -- 2/7/00 -- Fred Foster, Jr. (cq) a candidate for Durham County Commissioner. STAFF/JOHN ROTTET

JOHN ROTTET — JOHN ROTTET

— With minimal discussion, the Durham County Board of Commissioners selected newly installed Commissioner Fred Foster Jr. as its chairman Monday.

Brenda Howerton was chosen as vice chairwoman, and the vote was 3-2 on each selection.

“I’m shocked,” Foster said. “I had no idea that they had that much confidence in me, but I am elated because I just didn’t see it coming. I know there were a lot of maneuverings, and I was elated just to be elected.”

Commissioner Brenda Howerton nominated Foster as chairman, and former Chairman Michael Page joined Foster in the three votes for him. Newly installed Commissioner Wendy Jacobs nominated former Vice Chairwoman Ellen Reckhow as chairwoman, and those were the two votes in favor on Reckhow.

Jacobs also nominated Reckhow for vice chairwoman, with the vote splitting the same way in favor of Howerton, who was nominated by Page.

After a heated election, Foster said, he hoped the new board would come together well.

“Once we get into those work sessions, we’ll start to have a relationship,” Foster said,

Despite losing the vote for chairwoman, Reckhow signaled that she was excited about starting her 11th term on the board. (Before 2004, commissioners were elected to only two-year terms, not four years.)

“I hope as we enter this term that we will put any of the divisions of the campaign behind us,” Reckhow said. “I’m looking forward to working as part of the team.”

Reckhow said she wanted to thank Page for his leadership as chairman for the last four years.

Campaigning during early voting was so heated that the Durham County Board of Elections asked candidates and their supporters to attend a meeting on civility. Twice, police were called to eject campaign workers from voting sites.

All that came despite no Republicans running in November. There was an independent challenger on the ballot, however: Omar Beasley, who won the endorsement of the Friends of Durham and the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People.

The new board follows a contentious one that fought over extension of sewer for the 751 South project near Jordan Lake and the firing of head of the Department of Social Services. The last term also saw the early resignation of a commissioner who did not survive the primary process that narrowed the field from 14.

Foster has stated opposition to 751 South, and Jacobs has criticized the commissioners conditions for approving the project.

Foster trailed his fellow commissioners in votes in November, garnering 18.1 percent. Howerton and Jacobs pulled in 18.9 percent, Page 18.7 percent and Reckhow 18.6 percent. Beasley fell short with 6.9 percent.

This was Foster’s third time trying for county commissioner. Jacobs was running for office for the first time.

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